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Christianity. Theology. Apologetics. Philosophy. Literature. Politics. Science. Culture.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Myth of Adolescence (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this series, I wrote of the great elephants of India, who, although they have the physical capacity to uproot trees during the day, can be restrained all night long by a piece of twine and a twig. How is this possible?

The elephant’s training begins when it is still young and considerably less powerful. Removed from its mother, the elephant is then shackled with an iron chain to a large tree. For days and weeks on end, the baby elephant strains against its restraints, only to find that all exertion is useless. Then slowly, over a period of several weeks, sometimes months, smaller chains and smaller trees are used. Eventually, you can use a piece of twine and a small branch, and the great beast will not budge. Its mind is fully committed to the idea that it cannot go anywhere when there is something around its right hind leg.

And so I ask my generation, individually and corporately, “What is holding us back?” History demonstrates that we are far more capable than we think we are. Our failure to realize substantial achievement at early ages is due, not to any innate inadequacies on our part, but rather to our social conditioning. American society, with its media-saturated youth culture, not only follows trends and fads, but it creates them. Classrooms, TV shows, magazines, and websites, are not only addressing us at the level of social expectations, but they are in fact dictating those expectations. They tell us how to act, think, and talk; they tell us what to wear, what to buy, and where to buy it; they tell us what to dream, what to value, and what to hate. We are being squeezed into a mold where there is no room for Christian character or competence. And as the famous proverb goes, “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.”

In what could be considered the most maddening aspect of this crisis, not all areas of maturity are being stunted. In a powerful demonstration of teenagers’ ability to meet the expectations set before them, we witness young people today reaching unprecedented levels of technological proficiency and sexual experience. It is ironic that many teenagers, while fluent in multiple computer languages, are not expected to carry on an intelligent conversation with an adult. It is heartbreaking that so many young girls, while constantly pressed to become more and more sexually alluring, are not expected to attain any notable level of character beneath the surface.

Our world cannot last another generation of Christian young people who fit in. The shackles of society are on our minds and hearts, not our ankles. We are held back only by the myth of adolescence and the lies of social expectations. If we would only recognize that our restraints are illusory, and then let God’s Word and all of history govern our sense of what we are capable of, we would be a force this world could no longer ignore.

We face a crisis and an opportunity. A crisis, in the sense that we can no longer afford to slowly drift towards adulthood, viewing the teen years as a vacation from responsibility, and an opportunity, in the sense that we can embrace life now and make a difference for the glory of God, and for the good our family, our nation, and our world. Look down at your “ankle” and see the pathetic contrivance that has been restraining you. Now renew your mind in the light of God’s Word and take a step forward.